Cashback Program Report
- 1 INTRODUCTION
- 2 THE SEVEN CLASSES OF CASHBACK COMPENSATION
- 2.1 Grade 45 – personal cashback only
- 2.2 Grade 55 – personal cashback and non-residual income from referrals
- 2.3 Grade 65 – personal cashback and pseudo-residual via manual/dynamic referral
- 2.4 Grade 75 – personal cashback and residual cashback for direct referrals only
- 2.5 Grade 85 (B) – residual for directs and indirects.
- 2.6 Grade 90 (A-) – residual for 3 levels.
- 2.7 Grade 95 (A) – residual for many (or infinite) levels of referral
- 3 CONCLUSION
- 4 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
When looking at cashback programs, there are a number of possible factors to consider:
- number of stores to shop at – this might seem obvious, but if a cashback program has great rewards but only 2 stores to shop at, you will not find your experience enjoyable! And if you look with an open mind, you will see that many of the cashback programs with very poor compensation plans actually offer cashback at some stores that some of the better cashback programs do not. For instance, Lyoness currently does not have cashback on Apple computers in the United States while BeeSavy does. Also consider MarketAmerica. They have 3 times more SKU’s (items for sale) than Amazon through partnerships with 4,000+ shopping partners like Target, Home Depot, Apple, Walmart, GAP, etc. They also have 3,000+ proprietary products.
- number of ways to shop – all cashback programs reviewed, with the exception of Lyoness, only offer online shopping. Credit card rewards certainly offer offline shopping but they are not included for review here because the focus here is on compensation and they are all Grade F compensation programs. But being able to shop only line can often make you susceptible to shipping costs and/or delays in receiving your product.
- comparison shopping – oftentimes, you will want to look at several stores to decide which one is truly giving you the good deal. A good comparision engine will help with this. Again, given that SHOP.com built the comparison engines for Yahoo and Amazon, they know a thing or two about comparison shopping. I find that BeeSavy is not bad either. Lyoness is quite weak in this respect at the moment.
- finding items – often you know what you want, but may not know which store has it. A cashback program that doesnt help you shop, may hinder your ability to spend cash in the first place!
- compensation plan – this is the factor that this article will focus on. As you can see, there are numerous criteria one could focus on when evaluating cashback programs. Ultimately all factors are important and should be compared. However, this comparison will evaluate programs in terms of how well they can compensate the shoppers.
THE SEVEN CLASSES OF CASHBACK COMPENSATION
Having surveyed the exhaustive list of cashback programs at Cashback Watch, I have come up with these general classes of cashback programs, based on the maximum possible compensation.
The grade levels show how many income streams a particular program has — s1 is personal cashback. s2 is referral cashback. s3 through s10 are based on Lyoness’ 10 income streams. Streams 3-10 are very similar to “points” but are based in cash and benefit from the synergy of a network of shoppers.
- 95 – s1 + 2-level residual s2 + infinite level s3 and s4 . personal, national, continental “referral” networks
- 90 – s1 + residual s2 for many levels of directs
- 85 – s1 + residual s2 for directs and indirects
- 75 – s1 + residual s2 for directs only. The most well-known site offering this model is Market America – you get person cashback (s1) and referral cashback (s2), but only for your direct referrals.
- 65 – s1 + manual/dynamic. What this means is that you must manually link people to particular products to earn commission on those products. This is residual for sure, but tedious.
- 55 – s1 + non-residual s2. Non-residual means transient or special purpose. For instance, a very popular UK cashback site only gives you a sign up bonus for your referrals.
- 45 – s1 only
Grade 45 – personal cashback only
The lowest grade programs shown in my analysis only offer personal cashback. I call this income stream 1 (out of a possible 10 as you shall see). While it may be exciting to save money that you would have spent, ultimately cashback flowing from a team of shoppers will outdo personal savings. As of this writing, the Grade 45 programs are:
- Mr. Rebates
- Shop At Home
- Shop Discover
- Simple Rebates
- Cash Back Zoom
- Sunshine Rewards
- Fat Wallet
- Acme Cash-Back
- Allure Rewards
- Punchcard -
In all fairness, some of these programs offer huge discounts and have a wide selection of merchants. However, personal cashback savings will never lead to a profitable career based on shopping: only a team of savers has historically produced 6-figure earnings for shoppers.
Very notable amongst the Grade F systems is Punchcard. Installed at over 15 million locations, this is sure to be quite popular. But the potential for residual rewards is nil, so while it is a Grade A system in terms of ubiquity, it rates at the lowest level in terms of potential compensation. Also note this system is limited to in-person shopping. And it operates on a fixed amount of cashback/reward – 4 purchases lead to the 5th one free. Depending on the merchant’s margin, this may be a deal-breaker. Another drawback from the merchant standpoint is that they have no ability to monetize their customer base only make them loyal.
Grade 55 – personal cashback and non-residual income from referrals
Grade 55 programs allow a shopper to get some benefit from referral, but the benefit is transient, not residual. This means after getting a salutory sign-up bonus for a friend, you are effectively isolated and not shopping as a team. Because we have proven that a team of shoppers will outdo personal savings, it is clear that these programs are only marginally better than the grade 45 systems. The current list of Grade 55 systems includes:
- Mall of Stores
- Extra Rebates
Grade 65 – personal cashback and pseudo-residual via manual/dynamic referral
The grade 65 systems are interesting. A shopper in this system has to manually refer specific products to others to earn referral commissions. Now of course, this leads to a bit more “fairness” in the short run. Imagine that Sally recommends a toaster oven to Susy, who buys it, leading to a referral commission for Sally. Then the next week, Susy recommends a power saw to Sally, who buys it, leading to a referral commission for Sally. While this “micro-fairness” is good, the necessity to manually link products means that you only get referral commissions for what you link to… this is impractical. Sears has thousands of products. My fingers hurt just thinking about all the manual linking in hopes of a commission! However, it is possible to earn residually in these systems, so they are slightly more prosperous a possibility than the grade 55 systems, but only theoretically so. The manual-dynamic referral systems are:
Grade 75 – personal cashback and residual cashback for direct referrals only
In a grade 75 system, we have the beginnings of team shopping. However, the team build only extends to direct referrals.
Another highly touted system with a rather weak compensation program is Swagbucks. This site is very popular and very attractive, yet the income streams are impoverished. Capping residual income from direct referrals at 1000 swag bucks is limiting.
Grade 85 (B) – residual for directs and indirects.
The most highly touted Grade B system is shop.com / MarketAmerica. With backers like Bill Gates and amazon and spokespeople like Eva Longoria, this system certainly has the media buzz to create attention. And they have excellent shoppability. It’s easy to filter products by price range or category.You can search for related coupons. The compensation for shoppers is two-levels deep, making it a grade B program. They do have some misstatements in their youtube videos but any informed consumer will see through them
The other grade B system is Big Crumbs – they pay cashback on direct and indirect referrals. Because their payment method is PayPal, customers lose a substantial amount in transaction fees. Big Crumbs has a wide selection of merchants. And they support small business by allowing them to list their merchandise for free on eBay.
Grade 90 (A-) – residual for 3 levels.
Points2Shop is a spiffy site offering 3 levels of referral commission. Be aware that they operate on points and that a point is equal to a penny. So don’t get all worked up when you earn 100 points and it’s really just 1 dollar.
Grade 95 (A) – residual for many (or infinite) levels of referral
MooLaLaa has a decent compensation program – 4 referral levels. In terms of shopping, it is similar to Groupon or The Customer’s Advantage. So it is far more limited in terms of places that you can shop at.
BeeSavy is an A-grade cashback program.
The above video shows the power of 5 helping 5 through 7 levels. It clearly demonstrates by multiple levels of referral cashback is superior to those which offer less. BeeSavy has a wealth of features to recommend it. It is highly shoppable It has lots of stores with generous cashback amounts. They even work with other discount networks such as Groupon. And it is fast, free and easy to join. And unlike Lyoness, you dont have to reveal sensitive information such as your social security number to join.
Variable cashback over 7 levels is head and shoulders above the compensation plan of all but one cashback company — Lyoness. The exact reasons for this are explored in the article – Lyoness versus BeeSavy: Clash of the Cashback Titans!
A famous person once said: “I would rather have 1.00 from one hundred people than $100 from one person” and I completely agree. Both Lyoness and BeeSavy allow you to funnel small amounts of cashback through an ever-growing network of savings-conscious shoppers, leading to astronomical amounts of income over time.
- Terry Henry, SHOP.com consultant, provided clarifications and fixes regarding MarketAmerica and SHOP.com
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